Eshoo Wants FCC to Investigate Below-the-Line Wireless, Wired Fees

House Communications Subcommittee ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), backed by Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), wants the FCC to open a proceeding on below-the-line fees on wired and wireless phone bills.

The committee began an inquiry into the fees last year, and in a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler Feb. 27, they said gauging responses to the committee from the largest providers, the practice appeared to be widespread, with the fees "buried" in the fine print.

They said that from their own experience from the Web sites of those companies—AT&T, Century Link, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Verizon Wireless—"consumers cannot easily obtain a total estimate of their first month’s bill, including all taxes, fees and surcharges, prior to entering personal information, such as name, social security number and credit card information. Given that the combination of such charges can add as much as 42 percent to a consumer’s monthly bill, we believe that further examination by the FCC is warranted."

“Sprint seeks to communicate the details of its invoices clearly with all customers. Doing so increases customer satisfactions and fully discloses the cost of wireless services," the company said in a statement.

“CTIA’s Consumer Code for Wireless Service, which articulates a variety of principles, disclosures and practices for postpaid and prepaid wireless service, expressly provides for the disclosure of the type of fees that Congresswoman Eshoo’s letter addresses," said Jot Carpenter, VP, government affairs, for CTIA: The Wireless Association. "We have no reason to believe that any of our members are failing to abide by this commitment and have communicated as much to the members of Congress who signed the letter. Besides, the vigorous competition that characterizes the wireless industry encourages both disclosure and price discipline.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.